Contemporary Urban Gospel Artist Darrell Kelley’s “Be Great”

American Gospel music is big business and has been part of the business plan of American Christianity since before the beginning of the last century. As the American Christian Community has strengthened their ties together the various forms of American Gospel have come into their own.  Darrell Kelley ( has joined this tradition through his own efforts as a Pastor, a businessman, a music artist and an author.

Gospel music features stylized vocals (often with strong use of harmony) and Christian lyrics. Some modern gospel music, however, isn’t explicitly Christian and just utilizes the sound. Sub-genres include contemporary gospel, urban (sometimes referred to as black gospel and modern gospel music (now more commonly known as praise and worship music. We even have gospel bluegrass music, which is very under represented except in the live forums that have popped up regionally, especially in the mid south to northeast seaboard regions.

Several forms of gospel music are made up of choirs, use piano or Hammond organ, tambourines, drums, bass guitar and, increasingly, electric guitar. In comparison with hymns, which are generally of a statelier measure, the gospel song is expected to have a refrain and often a more syncopated rhythm. Darrell Kelley is immersed in the contemporary urban gospel markets. What he does with the song “Be Great” is designed to fit into that category. It is obviously intended to be as radio friendly as possible. Unfortunately the weakest aspect of this single seems to be the actual voice of Kelley himself. Excessive auto-tuning mars the performance and impact of the song itself. The artist is straining against the confines of his own voice and the conflict is readily apparent.

That is unfortunate because the message of the song itself and the enthusiastic delivery are almost enough to put it over the top. “The harder we struggle becomes the better I will be” is sung by a wonderful female voice, who is a welcome addition and potentially saves this track from being a dismissible throwaway. There are many nice production elements, such as the neo funk guitar riffs that weave in and out of the songs production. Many of the issues of this recording appears to have been solvable, by a good producer, knowing his own artists strengths and weaknesses, when it comes to pitch and performance.

Hopefully, based on the artist bio of Darrell Kelley, this will be just one release in a series of releases that will become more refined as he gains experience in the recording studio. Gospel music has always been done by those who hear the calling in their hearts. The business has grown up around that. Darrell Kelley, no doubt has the calling in his heart. His production and performance need to catch up to match that calling. When experience finally makes that happen, Kelley will be able to join the ranks as a valid contemporary urban gospel artist who will need to be reckoned with.  “Be Great” is simply one rung on the ladder he is climbing.

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